Saturday night Derwood and I used one of our wedding gifts and went out to dinner at The Ringside, an old school Portland steak house which originally opened in 1944. A couple of years ago, the restaurant closed for more than a year for remodeling. I wasn’t the only Portlander concerned that they would ruin the unique, warm ambiance of this landmark restaurant. I was thrilled to discover that it looks just the same, the construction was in the kitchen and offices.
I remember going to the Ringside as a kid and it was dark and smoky. I would be dressed up like the grown ups but would have a Shirley Temple instead of a Manhattan and an unfiltered cigarette. The tables are heavy slabs of dark wood and each table has a little lamp, which when combined with all the other little lamps at all the other dark tables casts a warm glow throughout the dining room. The big stone fireplace still roars and in the little corner bar there are autographed black and white photos of famous boxers like Muhammed Ali.
As you can tell, I have a long-lived affection for this place. I always order the steak Oscar typically with a ribeye and an iceberg wedge salad; which the Ringside has had on the menu since 1944, not just because the salad is back in vogue now. They don’t have the little gravy boats for the dressing anymore, remember those? We didn’t order the onion rings which Ringside is known for but I have had them many times and they are just as good as their reputation.
This blog isn’t just a paean to The Ringside, it is an investigative piece on what in the holy hell is going on with the pricing at steak houses??? Not just this one but ALL steakhouses. What is going on? Dinner Saturday night cost $185 for two people (including tip and drinks but Deren drinks N/A beer and I ordered 3 glasses of wine …. only drank 2 because I was so full. No dessert. No cocktails. No brandy.) My steak with the crab and asparagus “Oscar” topping was $64.50. Sixty-four American Dollars and Fifty American Cents. And it was good but it wasn’t a life changing experience. I saw a Porterhouse for Two on the menu and it could be yours for $125. There is a menu item that costs $125.
The Ringside offers steamed broccoli for $7.75 and a side of asparagus for $9.75.
I’m not just picking on The Ringside. I LOVE The Ringside. I’m talking about all steak houses. I have looked up the menus for Ruth’s Chris and Morton’s but they don’t show the prices online which is bullshit so I’m not going to go there.
El Gaucho in Portland:
Bone-in 18 oz New York — $74
Frenched Rib Chop (I don’t even know what that is) — $68
El Gaucho will do the Oscar addition for $20 so I guess the $15.25 at Ringside is a bargain. They will also let you have some roquefort dressing for $5, blue cheese dressing. Five dollars. They also offer asparagus for $12 and a baked RUSSET potato for $7.
This gets my gristle.
My brother went to Elways in Denver so I checked out their menu.
They have a corn chowder for $10, wedge salad $10, 16 oz crab legs $58, ribeye $49 and their Oscar is only $12. Elways really isn’t the highest price of the bunch.
And now to Chicago, 2013’s steakhouse of the year there is David Burke’s Primehouse.
Wedge salad $11, lobster bisque $12, ribeye $51, or the 75 day (dry aging) for $68. They have a policy of $7 per side dish or three for $19, not a bad deal. They also offer a tofu steak for $18.
I am losing perspective because after reading all these menus, I start thinking “well I guess that’s not bad.”
Here’s the thing I can eat a ribeye or NY steak and a good one at a restaurant that isn’t a steak house and it costs $25 (23 Hoyt), top sirloin $27 (Jo Bar), NY $26 (Cafe Castagna) and Sayler’s Old Country Kitchen another longstanding Portland restaurant (founded in 1947) has a ribeye for $33.95. OR I can buy them and grill them at home and let’s say I get two for $30-40.
What do you think? Is it me? Or is steakhouse pricing a little crazy? Like bovine insanity??